Housing is a fundamental human right. For Bostonians to fully thrive, they need a safe and reliable place to call home. No Boston Public School student can reach their full potential, no young professional can start their career or raise a family, and no senior can age in place if they are stressed about next month’s rent, sleeping on a loved one’s couch, or living out of their car. Yet, too many of our residents lack safe, stable, and affordable housing — even while Boston has experienced an unprecedented boom in development.
Metro Boston is the 4th most expensive metro area in the country. Nearly 50% of renters in Suffolk County spend more than a third of their income on housing, classifying them as “rent-burdened.” The recent growth and prosperity in our City has not been shared equally between our neighborhoods: There is no mistaking that Boston is a segregated city.
COVID-19 is shining a bright light on the systemic inequities that drove Boston’s affordable housing crisis even before the pandemic. Andrea has seen this first-hand throughout her life in the City, from experiencing and seeing the effects of gentrification and displacement in the South End as a child to serving her constituents in Dorchester and Mattapan who cannot access or afford decent housing as costs go up and wages remain stagnant.
Andrea believes that it is past time for the City to address the inequities in housing and development, so that all Bostonians can benefit from the City’s growth. As substantial new federal assistance is available to provide rental relief and other supports for residents, we must seize this moment.
Andrea will lead an equity-driven approach to solving the housing crisis and lead in such a way that ALL stakeholders are engaged and included — she will optimize the City’s housing assistance programs to provide immediate relief, and take a holistic and innovative approach to planning and zoning reform, tackling homelessness, and creating more safe, affordable, and stable housing for all Bostonians.
As Mayor, Andrea Will:
Increase Housing Affordability
Too many Boston residents are overly burdened by housing costs — whether it is renting or owning a home. Many who would like to buy a home and build a life in Boston simply cannot afford it — and either end up endlessly renting, limiting their ability to acquire wealth, or leaving Boston, limiting our city’s competitiveness. The first ordinance Andrea co-sponsored as a City Councilor was the Community Preservation Act which continues to generate hundreds of millions of dollars to successfully fund projects for affordable housing, green space, and historic preservation. Building on this track record, as Mayor, Andrea will develop long-term policies and programs that can make Boston affordable for all.
- Leverage Our Assets. For far too long the City’s foreclosed properties have sat vacant, derelict, and inaccessible. This is public land that should be used for the greatest public good. Andrea will advance the work of the Neighborhood Housing Division (city entity that holds land and foreclosed properties) into a high functioning land bank that focuses their lending power to small non-profits and others committed to building affordable housing using employers and contractors from Boston. She will support the work of community land trusts (CLTs). These organizations put land into the hands of the community for resident-led planning and long-term, collective control of land in and around Boston. As we emerge from the pandemic, City Hall has an historic opportunity to support the CLT model to ensure that land remains protected in the community, and not lost to speculative investors. CLTs can lock in affordability for residents and businesses for decades to come, and we must meet this moment to ensure we do. Andrea will ensure that properties the City re-sells include long-term affordability restrictions.
- Redefine “Affordable.” Conversations are happening in every neighborhood about how “affordable housing” is not truly affordable when defined as 100% or below of the Area Median Income (AMI), which is based on federal guidelines. The Campbell Administration will advocate to change this federal definition, opening the door to more truly affordable housing with income eligibility guidelines that capture more low and middle income residents and their immediate neighbors. Building on the work of recent legislation that gives us power to adjust Boston’s requirements of developers to make units affordable, Andrea will ensure these income-restricted units truly support the financial needs of our low-income residents, and explore how we can expand the definition and criteria of low income housing. Relatedly, Andrea knows that changing the defined income categories for voucher qualification could play a major role in creating access to affordability.
- Use data to drive access & transparency. We need to better understand who owns and manages our housing, who and where our renters are, and identify patterns such as repeated fair housing complaints, housing discrimination practices, or “problem properties”. The City already collects this data through existing rental registration, so we can track these issues more closely, but we can expand the information through the rental registration program to better assess patterns. In addition to creating a registry, Andrea will expand the RentSmart Boston system which tracks reported housing issues to also track fair housing complaints so that renters have the full picture before signing a lease. Andrea will ensure that the Office of Housing Stability publishes all eviction data – since they receive every notice to quit – which can help uncover patterns of discrimination. We know that not all our renters operate under formal rental agreements, many due to their immigration status and language barriers. A Campbell Administration will partner with nonprofits and community-based organizations to more fully understand the needs of this population and how the City can better serve and protect these residents.
- Build pathways to home ownership. To address the racial wealth gap in our city and combat displacement as a result of the lack of affordability, we must address home ownership – a critical tool to build savings, wealth, and economic stability and mobility. Andrea will invest in City programming and create public-private partnerships to expand access to financial services, coaching, and a greater range of tools to enable first-time homebuyers to participate in this wealth-building opportunity. She will expand the capacity of the Boston Home Center, other offices serving residents of public housing, and of proven programs such as programs that increase resident buying power for renters. Under her leadership, the City will build partnerships with local financial institutions to increase opportunities for aspiring homeowners to afford property in Boston, including with black-owned banks, to offer diversified and trusted mortgage products, down payment assistance, and other supports.
- End the senior housing crisis. Andrea knows that Boston’s well-documented, persistent housing crisis puts our city’s seniors at particularly high risk of losing housing and being displaced. To ensure our seniors are able to age in place with dignity, Andrea will fund programs to prevent housing loss, support elder renters with tenant protection and access to legal aid, and assist seniors who wish to downsize. She will ensure that our senior homeowners are able to utilize programs to help them stay in their homes including home repair, the circuit breaker tax credit, and property tax deferral, and that these programs operate under the highest standards of excellence. Under Andrea’s leadership, we will ensure all of our communities operate with a village model to ensure our seniors have the support they need.
Maximize Pandemic Relief
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic cooling the market slightly, many residents still fear eviction after moratoriums run out. These moratoriums must be extended and people should not be held accountable for COVID-19 related debts caused by this public health crisis. As Mayor, Andrea will strengthen programs to provide immediate rental relief while simultaneously establishing long-term programs to mitigate gentrification and displacement.
- Fully resource the Office of Housing Stability (OHS). OHS is the City’s one-stop-shop for renters and families facing displacement, eviction or homelessness. Their work is more important now than ever, as they meet Bostonians’ most pressing housing needs daily, from rental relief, to housing search assistance, legal assistance, mediation, providing emergency housing solutions, and helping with fire displacement. Andrea will allocate necessary resources to OHS to make their short-term programs permanent and ensure adequate staff capacity to build their pandemic-response programs.
- Maximize Emergency Rental Assistance. New funding allows us to provide rental assistance to anyone with a lease, paying up to 15 months of rent. We must incentivize landlords to accept this guaranteed rental assistance income through City programs that assist with security deposits, damage protection, and vacancy loss coverage to ensure more landlords will rent to all Bostonians, including residents who have recently experienced homelessness and unemployment. We must also make this fund permanent to assist Boston Housing Authority tenants in paying off rent arrears, and make the fund accessible to residents who receive housing subsidies. We can also use federal funds like Community Development Block Grants to support residents in a range of ways including housing access, economic empowerment, and childcare grants to ensure working parents have more economic and housing stability.
- Establish a Workforce Housing Voucher. Andrea knows that housing vouchers are effective policy tools and will explore a Boston housing voucher for every resident earning between 60-80% Area Median Income, which would be unit-based and function as an expansion of the city-funded housing voucher program. A Workforce Voucher Program would reach the low and middle-income residents who are often left out of support programs yet are still rent-burdened, give residents another housing option, and cut down the massive waitlists at the Boston Housing Authority.
- Update the Fair Chance Tenant Selection Policy. Andrea knows that evictions are traumatic, and that having an eviction record can be a huge barrier to accessing future housing. As a Councilor, Andrea has fought for legislation at the local level to prevent employment and housing discrimination based on eviction history or credit score, supporting the passage of the HOMES Act at the state level, and as Mayor will take action to ensure access to housing opportunities is equitable and that tenants know their rights. She will update the Fair Chance Tenant Selection Policy to prohibit discrimination against potential tenants with histories in housing court and ensure that children in families that are evicted do not appear on eviction records so that they are set up to reach their full potential.
- Support mediation and legal representation. In a new COVID-era rule, evictions hearings have to go mediation first and continue if the tenant applied for emergency rental assistance. Mediation helps to prevent displacement, homelessness, and housing insecurity by making eviction a multi-step process that includes providing a tenant with their rights, and in some cases can assist tenants with cash assistance, making eviction a last resort. As Mayor, Andrea will make this mediation-first rule permanent, partner with landlords on best practices related to pre-court interventions to minimize eviction, and enable parties to work together. She will expand the City’s landlord-tenant mediation program and increase the capacity of OHS to perform landlord-tenant mediation. There are clear links between having representation and lowering eviction rates yet the majority of tenants are not represented: legal assistance helps residents avoid eviction findings, protect credit scores, and keep their possessions. Residents should be guaranteed free legal representation when appearing at housing court, and any costs associated with mediation should not be passed onto residents by their landlords. Andrea will initiate a renter’s rights and responsibilities campaign and increase efforts to provide pre-court mediation and legal representation. Through this program, assistance would be available for residents at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Line, and would be bolstered through staffing at the Office of Housing Stability and by establishing a co-op internship program with local law students and recent graduates.
Drive Equitable Planning
Boston has experienced an unprecedented building boom in recent years, but only some neighborhoods have benefitted. Andrea envisions a comprehensive, collaborative planning process to inform how and where we develop and ensure adequate affordable housing throughout the City. Planning power should be strengthened within the City so that we can root out corruption and develop intelligently. It’s time we bring the powers of master planning, compliance, monitoring, design approval, and other key development powers back to the City. Andrea knows we must also be creative and intentional in partnering and involving community in the development process. In a Campbell Administration, planning and development review will actively involve both renters and homeowners, as well as communities of color.
- Reimagine the BPDA. Simply abolishing the BPDA is not realistic or productive — it would turn development into a chaotic, ad-hoc process at a time when we need consistency and transparency. Andrea will oversee a comprehensive reform process to add consistency, clarity, transparency and engage the community in the decision-making process more effectively. The BPDA in its current state and its predecessor, the BRA, have struggled to win the trust of the community and stakeholders. The agency needs a cultural shift that begins with structural changes that build towards equity and includes a more proactive approach to planning in every neighborhood, starting with the staff and leadership structure. This means appointing board members with diverse expertise including proven community leadership, experience in affordable development, community development, non-profit housing, labor, structuring public-private partnerships, capital structure and finance, and construction. For projects that the community welcomes, such as affordable housing projects, we can create greater predictability and consistency by removing affordable housing from the article 80 review process while ensuring adequate community process. For more effective engagement, efficiency, and transparency, we must invest in technology to streamline processes and establish a robust department within the BPDA focused exclusively on proactive organizing, outreach, and representative community engagement. We must center racial equity in community engagement and ensure community feedback is truly representative, targeting communities of color for proactive engagement, and increase community education efforts so that residents can more meaningfully participate in the development process as we re-evaluate the role of community voice in the development review process.
- Streamline development review & permitting. The current permitting process is duplicative, difficult, and overly burdensome — adding cost and slowing the construction of desperately needed units. Andrea will work to make permitting faster, easier, more predictable, and cheaper which in turn, means more affordable housing available sooner for the community. She will also remove affordable housing and small developments from the BPDA review process instead putting them before the ZBA, increase Inspectional Services staff capacity, invest in modernized technology to increase efficiency in the review process, and add more staff to oversee DND’s Affordable Fair Housing Marketing Plans to improve communication between review and management stakeholders: the City, developers, and property management firms.
- Diversify the development workforce. To ensure that those who are planning, designing, and building Boston better reflect the City’s diversity, Andrea will develop partnerships between educational institutions and employers to provide apprenticeships, internships, and educational opportunities to build a pipeline of talent including women and people of color in the fields of development, urban design, planning, and construction. As Mayor, Andrea will also increase contracts with MWBE developers.
Execute on Zoning Overhaul
Boston’s zoning code – the rule book that says what can be built where – has not seen a comprehensive city-wide update in 50 years. Through a transparent, community-engaged process, Andrea will create a city-wide plan that allows our City to grow in a way that also benefits and protects current and long-time Boston residents. Overhauling our zoning code will result in less variances, ease Zoning Board agendas, and enable residents to better anticipate and define what their neighborhood will look like in the years to come.
- Implement Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). TDR is a new and flexible financing tool that enables more housing creation more quickly: if a developer does not build the maximum allowable amount of units on a property, they can transfer rights to build those units to another developer. Andrea will embrace TDR as an equitable approach that enables small and mid-sized property owners, Community Development Corporations, and other affordable housing entities to participate more actively in the market. While rezoning is a multi-year process, TDR can more efficiently and quickly grow the “pie” of available housing across the city.
- Enable Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Housing is considered transit-oriented if it is located within a quarter mile of an entrance to a public transit stop. Andrea will partner with the MBTA to qualify more properties for affordable housing development benefits by adding more entrances to Boston’s many T stops that are currently excluded and expanding the definition of TOD to include bus stops and micro-mobility such as bikes and scooters. Increasing TOD will enable Boston to optimize the prime opportunity it offers to utilize Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) from the state. Under Andrea’s leadership, City Hall will also use zoning overlays to encourage transit-oriented development and mitigate costly parking requirements, and establish an inclusionary development transfer program to enable the building of more affordable housing units near transit.
- Advance inclusionary development. We must increase the proportion of affordable units required per development. This can be graded by neighborhood. Neighborhoods seeing lots of development, economic growth, and that have close proximity to jobs and transportation (Back Bay, South End, and the Seaport) should have a higher required percentage of inclusionary development (exploring upwards of 20% affordable units per new building) than other neighborhoods so that residents have a better chance at affording to live wherever they choose. Under Andrea’s leadership, Boston will encourage developers to build on-site inclusionary development as much as possible to bridge the racial and class divisions and simultaneously strengthen the IDP transfer program for off-site development, whereby market-rate developers can transfer their mandatory inclusionary units to a non-profit affordable housing developer who will get more bang for their buck building more affordable units by tapping into government subsidies and tax credits.
Develop Boston Creatively
As District 4 City Councilor, Andrea worked diligently in the community to activate vacant lots as a public health, economic development, and public safety imperative. Recognizing the potential for arts projects, active green spaces, and housing solutions in the community, Andrea brought together community stakeholders, higher-ed partners, nonprofits and developers to create innovative action plans for these disinvested areas. For her, creative development is about driving equity, resiliency, and vibrancy across Boston. Building on this work, Andrea will:
- Activate vacant lots across Boston. Vacant lots are not just in District 4, and Andrea envisions innovative solutions across the city, from increasing affordable housing and TOD to projects that can serve as the community best sees fit — whether creating a safe outdoor gathering space in a garden or a place to showcase local artists’ work. Andrea will identify and partner with mission-aligned private investors who share the City’s objectives of implementing solutions quickly and increasing social and economic activity while maintaining neighborhood character.
- Fund affordability with a Revolving Loan Fund. A revolving loan fund takes an initial seed investment to develop affordable housing. The seed funding can be set aside in the City budget, or from a mission-aligned private sector partner. The loans made from this fund are usually directed toward smaller builders and non-profits. These organizations not only build but also manage the building once complete. Once the building is complete or sold, they pay the city back into this “soft” capital fund. The new capital will cover costs of capital, labor, and manufacturing technology that are difficult to meet on affordable housing projects. The same money can then be turned around to pay the next affordable housing developer. In this way, the revolving loan fund opens the door to equitable access to real estate development to small builders who are shut out of the market due to the high costs of development.
- Allow for permanent Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Andrea envisions Boston creating affordable units in unexpected or underutilized places, such as carriage houses, tiny homes, finished basements, and attics. By diversifying our housing stock, Boston can fill in gaps on vacant lots, add units to already developed lots, and preserve the character of the neighborhood. She will explore updated zoning that allows for ADU projects by right, a streamlined permitting process to enable homeowners to take on these smaller projects, and ADU project eligibility for density bonuses.
- Preserve our historic architecture in new ways. Andrea believes that Boston’s beloved triple deckers can help meet our current housing needs, if we are innovative in our approach. She will incentivize triple decker retrofitting projects for current owners to increase housing supply and support design competitions to preserve existing units and pursue energy efficient construction that is climate change resilient. Given Boston’s rich history, our Landmarks Commission will continue to play a critical role in preserving the cultural and architectural history of the City. As Mayor, Andrea will work with the Landmarks Commission to preserve the historic fabric of our City by partnering on demolition prevention and delay.
Boston residents may experience homelessness for any number of reasons, whether due to an illness, job loss, domestic violence, substance use disorder, or other trauma. As Mayor, Andrea will make use of the City’s strong asset base to create a more robust set of options for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
- Implement a Housing First approach. In order to take on a job search, recovery program, or educational pursuit, one must first have a place to call home. Programs that first focus on getting people safely and securely housed before meeting any other needs have greater long-term success. Women, veterans, and survivors of domestic violence are all priorities for the housing-first approach, whether via a bolstered shelter system or a more clear path to affordable housing.
- Prioritize our young people and families. Andrea will expand housing vouchers available to Boston Public Schools families to keep them together and in close proximity to the schools they attend. She will further allocate resources to addressing youth homelesness through programs like youth rapid rehousing, which provides rent payment for residents ages 18 to 24, and increase coordination with wrap-around service providers to meet the social, emotional, educational and health needs of our young residents.
- Invest in transitional housing. Whether Bostonians are leaving a shelter, a substance user recovery program or returning from incarceration, transitional housing is essential to prevent and mitigate homelessness and ensure residents have paths to economic mobility and a full life in Boston. Andrea will ensure the City continues to assist tenants in Housing Court with applications for financial assistance and wrap-around services, and increase coordination with the Boston Municipal Court and the Trial Court’s Probation Department and special services sessions to ensure that the Commonwealth’s efforts to find housing, wrap-around services and other placements for Boston-based defendants is more seamless and consistent.
- Create more permanent supportive housing. Supportive housing provides wrap-around services to people experiencing chronic homelessness, providing a stable environment that enables residents to prioritize their mental and physical health. In addition to building on current City programming, Andrea will identify and fund new spaces for creation of dedicated permanent supportive housing such as city-owned vacant lots and converted buildings. For small city-owned lots, affordability restrictions can be extended to the first homeowner or for a decade of renting – a relatively short timeline – to ensure small builders successfully fill these gaps with units. To make this a reality, she will partner with existing housing facilities, healthcare providers who can enhance onsite services, community-based organizations, and philanthropic and private sector partners.
Every Bostonian deserves a place they can call home that is also safe and affordable. Now more than ever, housing is essential for individuals to stay healthy and for Boston to be a climate-resilient city. Boston has so many resources – private, public, and non-profit – at our disposal; we must use them creatively to both protect our historic city and grow equitably. As Mayor, Andrea will activate these resources and lead collaborative, innovative, and equity-driven solutions to end our housing crisis.